December 15, 2001

Death of Mainza Chona

Zambias liberation leader and first prime minister, Mainza Chona, died on December 11, in a South African hospital where he was taken for an operation. Zambian President Chiluba has declared Sunday, December 16, as the day for national mourning for the late Chona.

Chona’s actual age was not known, but his family believed he was born around 1930. Chona was the founding president of the former ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP). He relinquished power to his close friend, Kenneth Kaunda, who became the first Zambian president. Chona was one of Zambia's most respected citizens. He served in various government positions. Most recently, he was ambassador to China until 1992, when President Frederick Chiluba recalled him. He was also a leading opposition lawyer in the country, who worked on many high-profile cases, including the defense of soldiers who attempted to overthrow Chiluba in 1997. Chona was also among elders who initiated moves to bring all the political parties in Zambia together in a bid to resolve conflicts before general elections due to be held on December 27.

Election observers from southern Africa, Europe, and the United States have arrived in Zambia to monitor general elections on December 27, officials said Tuesday. A 24-member team of parliamentarians from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries has already arrived and will stay until December 30, said Titi Pitso, spokeswoman for the SADC Parliamentary Forum. The SADC observers will fan out through Zambia's nine provinces to assess the situation on the ground ahead of the presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections. That team comprises MPs from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, Pitso said.

A US-based election monitoring group, the Carter Center, also has opened a full-time mission in Zambia to observe the polls. The European Union Electoral Unit (EUEU) has dispatched about 50 international long-term election observers in different parts of Zambia, while another 100 were expected before the vote, an official said.

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